Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Dying to play for laughs


Highbury Players


WHEN Joe Orton’s‘Loot’ premiered in 1966, the troubled young writer was on the verge of a glittering career.

His reflections of working class culture provided a stark contrast to the mannered, gentile fodder that ruled the roost in theatre’s up and down the country.

The Shameless of its day pitched against a sea of Downton Abbeys!.One year later, Orton was dead and the world was deprived of an undoubted and important talent.

Today, despite its impact over 40 years ago, the piece feels dated and, at times, a little laboured.

What made the play work in the late 1960s was its sharply defined characters mixed with slightly risque themes and a barely concealed dig at the establishment; in 2014 the ‘danger’ is somewhat diluted.

The play’s cast of characters - a dead body, a bumbling copper, a sexy, scheming nurse, a dithering old Irishman and a couple of clueless accomplices - could come straight from the pages of a Ray Cooney farce.Ortons satirical intentions were grander than that but time has somewhat blunted his attack.

Orton is notoriously hard for Amateur performers to get right. With such sharply drawn characters, there is a danger of going over the top and playing for laughs rather than truth. There is, of course, comedy in the play. Orton included a healthy portion of puns, witty observations, one liners and misunderstandings to which the company largely give justice.

At times, though, the cast over play the comedy when it isn’t needed. Trusting the script is important and sometimes less is a lot more.

Malcolm Robertshaw’s set is simple and effective- giving a real period feel to proceedings. The somewhat hideous wall paper is an affront to the senses.Orton would have loved that.

The general pace of the show is a little slow. Gaps between cues give a somewhat hesitant rhythm to the dialogue. That said, it’s early in the run and these things will adjust as confidence and trust in the script grows.

Richard Irons sets a lovely tone as Truscott- a kind of self appointed Poirot with an uncanny eye for detail.

Rob Alexander, Bhupinder Dhamu, Jack Hobbis, Charlie Walters and Robert Gregory make up the rest of the cast - not forgetting a corpse who gives new meaning to the word stiff.

Directed by Ian Appleby, ‘Loot’ runs to 01-03-14.

Tom Roberts  

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